NIC Notes

Insights in Seniors Housing & Care


By: NIC  |  May 19, 2022

Senior Living: Looking for Workers? Tired of Turnover?

Ideas and Discussion  |  Senior Housing  |  Skilled Nursing  |  Workforce

Here are some actionable insights.

Amid an industry-wide frustration with an exceptionally tight labor market and quickly rising wages, new approaches to recruit and retain good workers were detailed at the 2022 NIC Spring Conference in Dallas. The session, “Fostering Meaningful Engagement: Industry Staffing and Labor Needs,” included presentations by four experts followed by a brainstorming session for industry stakeholders to share ideas on effective strategies.

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“We have a problem,” said panelist Jacquelyn Kung, CEO, Activated Insights, which runs the Great Place to Work certification program for senior care. She breaks the problem into three parts: recruitment, retention, and growth. Based on data from 500,000 residents and family members, she made three recommendations.

Be great. Senior living providers are not getting enough applicants. Other industries with hourly pay receive 21-25 applicants per job compared to 13-15 applicants for senior living. In order to get more applicants, senior living companies need to be great and stand out, according to Kung.

Engage more. Retention is linked to worker engagement. The annual turnover rate among senior living workers is currently about 85%. Prioritize employee engagement especially at the properties that tend to receive less attention.

Promote from within. Only 17% of promotions in senior living come from within, compared to 46% at hospitals. Try to fill 40% of promotions internally to grow a pipeline of leaders.

Panelist Myra Norton, CEO, Arena Analytics noted, “The labor market is not going back to the way it was. We have to navigate the new reality.”

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Norton offered five strategies that address the current labor environment.

  1. Tap non-traditional labor pools by considering those with different backgrounds, experience, and education.
  2. Support work/life integration. Help employees integrate meaningful work into their lives.
  3. Hire for outcomes. Focus on the qualities in applicants to produce the desired outcomes for residents.
  4. Rethink your staffing mix. About 40% of part-time workers want more hours. Take advantage of that reality.
  5. Co-create solutions. Look for answers to problems from your staff.

How to Boost Engagement

Speaker Ed Frauenheim, co-founder of The Teal Team, an organization of consulting executives, offered leadership tips. He suggested that leaders should know their strengths and weaknesses and take time off to reduce personal stress. Understand employees and support them as people, not just workers. And create a culture of mutual care where workers can support each other.

Engaged workers produce better results. But engagement and satisfaction are not the same thing, said panelist Craig Deao, managing director at Huron Consulting Group. Satisfaction is a measure of what the worker gets from the relationship, such as a paycheck. Engagement is about putting forth discretionary effort when no one is watching. “Engagement is the difference between commitment and compliance,” he said. Commitment is built on a foundation of trust.

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Leaders can boost engagement by promoting the company’s mission and values. Compensation and benefit packages should be competitive. Also, create a feedback loop to collect information from workers and build relationships. Help workers find their own solutions to problems. “Relight the flame so people realize they can bring their best selves to work,” said Deao.

Small group brainstorming sessions followed the experts’ presentations, allowing audience members to discuss and generate actionable insights to apply in their own workplaces. Some of the suggestions included: educational scholarships for employees, mentorship programs, internships, and flexible scheduling.

Speaker Deao concluded by emphasizing that the senior care profession is rewarding because it makes a difference in people’s lives by caring for the elderly and helping families ease their caregiving duties. “Everyone is here for intrinsic reasons,” said Deao. “You can unlock that energy that was there when your staff decided to join the profession.”

2022 NIC Spring Conference recordings are available to conference attendees.

Join us for the 2022 NIC Fall Conference, September 14-16 in Washington, DC.

About NIC

The National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to support access and choice for America’s seniors by providing data, analytics, and connections that bring together investors and providers.

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